Knee Problems…

A female athlete with a knee problem.

The minor knee problem can develop into debilitating osteoarthritis. Take care any knee problem before too late.

If you are one of lucky people who do not have knee problems, you may not need to read this article. Still I recommend doing so as it may prevent you from knee problems in future.

Knee problems are prevalent among exercisers, especially runners. The minor knee problem can develop into debilitating osteoarthritis in old age, which may cost you your freedom of movement and even a healthy life. As usual, we need to blame our ancestors. They did not live long enough to worry about the knee cartilage to deteriorate and develop osteoarthritis.

They were dead before that happened. We now live far beyond the original design capacity and most of us eventually get some sort of knee problems.

The cause of knee injuries are mainly from high impact actives and/or knee twists. Very tight muscles also causes knee pains because it twists the knees around.

When we are young, the knee cartilage can take a significant impact, but as we age, the capacity of the cartilage diminishes. Even when you are young, if the cartilage was ruptured from knee twisting injuries, the cartilage loses capacity to take a high impact and you will get knee pain. To prevent that, we need to avoid knee twisting accidents. The accidents, however, are not necessarily a big one. A minor stumbling at a street curb could cause the twist; especially if your leg muscles are weak and unbalanced.

Two things you can do to prevent that; develop the leg muscles and stretch them. Strong leg muscles can stabilize the knee area. The knee itself is not covered by muscles, but by ligament, tendon, and cartilage, but it strengthens the muscles around it and protects the knee.

The good exercises are leg extension for quads, leg curls for hamstrings, adductor abductor machines for the inside and outside of the legs. The leg extension may stress the knees and you should use slightly lighter weights than you can do, but do more reps. Squats are great overall leg workouts, but if you don’t do them correctly, it actually is very taxing to your knees. Make sure that you develop muscles all around. If your muscles are unbalanced, the knee cap could be pulled to one side and if something happens (such as twisting); you will injure your knee much more easily.

You also need to stretch the leg muscles. Many men tend to have developed, but very stiff leg muscles. This also causes problems. If your quads are very tight, IT bands (Iliotibial band) which connect between the hips to the knee area is shortened and it causes sharp knee pains. It also twists the knees around and this may cause ruptures of knee cartilage with a smaller impact.

Although Yoga classes are great for stretching, if you are very stiff, I don’t recommend Yoga class, unless you can work with a private instructor who can correct everything on the spot. Instead, spend some time; say 10 minutes a day for stretching at home, preferably at night when your body is warm.

You don’t want to stretch when the muscles are cold. It could cause muscle problems. Ideally, we want to spend 10 minutes or so to warm up the body, then stretch, but many people don’t have time; so the second best is to stretch at night. If you have a dollar form, use it. It is very helpful to these with very still muscles.

If you get knee pain, stop doing any high impact workouts, such as running, jump ropes, and aerobics dances. The basic immediate care is rest, ice, and compress. The icing and compression (with a knee brace, see below) calms down the inflammation around the knees. If it is severe injuries (such as a rupture of the cartilage or torn ligament), this won’t help you much and you need to see a doctor.

If you are worrying about missing a workout, you can spend some time on cardio machine such as spinning bike.
You also want to wear a knee brace. According to the University of Manchester study, even the simplest knee brace reduces knee pain by aligning the knee cap to the correct position.

There are two types of knee braces. One is the brace which keeps the knee cap in the correct position and also stabilizes the knee area. It tends to cover only around the knee area. The second one covers all the way to the mid quads and a part of the calf. This tightens up the muscles and consequently stabilizes the knee. The colorful Kinesio Taping you saw on Olympic athletes’ body does the same thing. It used to be very expensive, but you can buy them cheaply at local drug stores these days.

If you get a semi-permanent knee problem, then you may want to follow the following steps. According to another study done at The University of Manchester, the weak body clock tends to weaken the knee cartilage. You know that our body follows approximately 24 hrs. cycle, right? In the morning, the body temperature goes up and everything gets active, but toward the night, the body activity slows down and the body temperature goes down. Most younger people have a good clear rhythm, but some people, especially older people; this rhythm gets irregular or weak. The researchers found that if this rhythm gets weak, the body does not recover well. As for the knee cartilage, it loses it flexibility and can be easily damaged.

That is why as we get older (which weakens the body clock system), and we tend to develop the knee problems. To counteract this problem, they suggested that we should regulate our daily life; scheduled exercise and regular meal time and get up and go to bed at a regular time. Further, you need to warm up and cool the joints periodically, stay warm during the day and cool during the night to simulate the body temperature variations of the day.

Of course, if you injure your knee from accidents or the knee problem persists, it is always a good idea to see your doctor and then specialists. Even if you have torn ligaments or cartilage, if you get care quickly (often surgically), you can avoid future osteoarthritis.

New research links body clocks to osteoarthritis, The University of Manchester, News Release, Jun 2013

Knee bracing can ‘significantly’ reduce pain of kneecap osteoarthritis, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 16, 2013

Hop, skip or jump? Study says no to all of the above, MIT Media Relations, Apr 2013

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